Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day


Memorial day was cool and overcast, as in my memory it always is. As a child, I would accompany my father as he went to a different cemetery every year for the memorial services. He was a radio operator for a B-26 bomber in WWII and even though I was very young, the seriousness of the day impressed me greatly.

The turnout for the ceremony in Levering Cemetery was small because most neighborhood people go to the larger one, an hour later, at the war memorial in Gorgas Park, not a quarter mile away. I like the one at the cemetery, though, because there are soldiers buried there from the American Revolution and the Civil War, as well as more recent wars, and because the presence of their graves reminds everyone of what the day of memorial is all about.

There is always a short speech and of course it's patriotic. There's always the 21-gun salute. But the ceremony is not about the country and it's not about the military. It's about showing respect to those who died before their time. Some of the vets present would be thinking about those they knew who had surrendered their lives far before their time. I know my father was. And before that, one has to stand humble and silent.


Friday, May 19, 2017

And As Always...

I'm on the road again!

This time I'm in Pittsburgh for the Nebula Awards. I'm not up myself, by a friend asked me to be the designated acceptor should the Work In Question win. If it does, I'll tell you all about it.

Meanwhile, I'm in Pittsburgh! I once ticked off a lot of fantasy readers by ending a novel with the heroine moving to Pittsburgh and becoming a chemist. That one baffled me. Chemistry is a great profession. And Pittsburgh is a great city. I'd rather be a chemist in Pittsburgh than rule in Narnia any day.

Today, I think I'll go to the Carnegie. Which is that most sensible of institutions, a world-class art museum which is also a world-class natural history museum. Or is it the other way around?


Monday, May 15, 2017

Celebrating F&SF


I got an email from Gordon Van Gelder this morning (a group email, I should mention, which is a pity because he almost always says something witty in his one-recipient correspondence) mentioning that F&SF is the lead article for Wikipedia today.

Gordon also mentioned that The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction is having a sale on their Website selling sample issues or subscriptions at a reduced price. But only until midnight EDT today, May the fifteenth.

Finally, for those who prefer emags, Weightless Books is having a similar sale on F&SF on the exact same terms: One-Day Good Deal Only.

So if you've been meaning to subscribe, or are curious as to whether you'd enjoy the magazine or not, today's your day!


And it's worth mentioning...

I'm shilling for F&SF here not because there's anything in it for me, but because it's a great science fiction and fantasy magazine and deserves your support.

But don't take my word for it. Buy a copy. Read it. Make up your own mind.

Today's a particularly economical day for doing that.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

How Vivid Is Your Writing? Find Out For Yourself


All my time is taken up by the The Iron Dragon's Mother these days. So here's some more useful advice for gonnabe writers:

Granted, there are times when for legitimate reasons you might want your writing to be dull and bland. But as a rule, vivid is better than not. And concrete things are more vivid than abstractions. Here's how to see how vivid (or not) your writing is.

You understand this is just a fast and sloppy test, right? Good.

Take a page from a story you're working on. (Shown above: a page from "The Changeling's Tale," by yours truly.) Now take a colored market -- I chose yellow -- and highlight all the nouns that refer to things you can actually see or touch or taste or hear or smell. Fish. Air. Aunt Kate. Feather. Bravos.

Next, take a different color marker -- red, here -- and highlight all the adjectives indicating things that can be physically sensed.

Finally, take a third marker -- you can guess which color I used -- and highlight all the verbs that indicate actions that can be seen. Stirred. Swung. Turned. But not sensed or felt or realized.

Participles, articles, pronouns, and the like are left gray. A sentence like "Without meaning to, I had caused a sensation," though necessary here, is entirely colorless.

When you are done, look at the results. If the page looks bright and lively, chances are your prose is too. If if looks gray, then your prose is probably colorless and abstract.

And that's all.

Now, back to work, both of us!

Above: Yes, I'm sure I've made mistakes in the exemplar page above. But it was only the work of a minute. You, I'm sure, will put a great deal more care into your page.


Monday, May 8, 2017

The Penultimate Step In Writing Your Novel

I'm in the final stages of The Iron Dragon's Mother, where for every two pages I write, I rip out one that already exists. This would be alarming if I hadn't been through this exact same process so many times before.

However, this stage takes up so much of my attention that I've been neglecting my blog. Well, if I have to neglect one, I'd rather it not be my novel. Still, I do feel an obligation to those who read this blog regularly. So here's some gratuitous free advice for gonnabe writers.

I may have already told you what the final step in a writing a novel is: Reading the entire novel, from start to finish, aloud. There is no better way to discover the typos, dropped words, repetitions, and other bonehead mistakes that somehow manage to survive multiple revisions. Anyone who skips this step has only oneself to blame when they manage (as some will) to slip past the proofreader and editor.

The penultimate step, to be taken after the entire thing is written but before the oral reading is to go through the novel looking for repeated words and phrases. I'm writing a fantasy novel, so the first words I'll run through the search function are "great" and "vast." Such words are endemic to fantasy and you wouldn't want to overuse them:

The red knight rode out of the vast forest on his great destrier. Before him lay the vastness of the Panchatantra mountain range with nestled  below it the great city of T'renton. He had reached the midpoint of his epic so that the remaining great deeds of the future stretched, half-vast, before him.

Everyone has turns of phrase they particularly like. (I'm partial to "He said nothing" as a single-sentence paragraph, myself.) These should be identified and then searched. If they're striking enough to be memorable, repetition will lower you considerably in the readers' esteem.

And that's all. It's not really very difficult at all. But it is necessary.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have a novel to write.


Monday, May 1, 2017

Serial Box in Brooklyn!


Back in the day, it was a well-kept secret how much serious art is collaborative. The Great Man (almost always Men) was supposed to be like John Wayne -- solitary, independent, heroic. Which was ridiculous, of course. Even Picasso, who was the most monstrously aloof of artists when he wanted to be, accepted input from other artists on Guernica, because that was a painting that mattered too much to him to keep up pretenses.

In literature, collaboration is everywhere, both overt and covert, and when it works well, it's loads of fun.

I'll be at the Brooklyn Commons tomorrow for the New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series. event celebrating Serial Box's collaborative and serialized genre novels. If you're local and have the evening open, why not stop by?

I honestly expect it will be great fun.

You can find all the info here.

And Speaking of Dinosuars...

My paleontology novel,  Bones of the Earth, will be featured in Early Bird Books, which is Open Road Media's daily deals newsletter on May 15, 2017. That's two weeks from now. The ebook will be downpriced to 1.99 across all US retailers on that day.

To subscribe to EBB (and I believe you have to go through them to get this deal, though I have to confess I'm not absolutely sure), click here and follow the simple instructions.